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What's Your Leadership Style?


One of the delights of being "Open To Work" is that you get to chat with lots of "Recruitment Specialists", and having to answer the same questions over and again... About myself, my work history, my skills etc... However, the other day I got asked a question which got me flummoxed... Which was "What is your leadership style"

I've worked professionally for over 30 years and I've been leading teams for around 20 odd of those. My style has developed organically over that time, I dare say that when I first managed my own team there was no such thing as a 'Leadership Style', at least not a style that I've tried to emulate.

I was caught off guard, I was on the spot, I really couldn't answer, but she kept pushing... "Well, there's a number of styles out there" was her reply a few times, "One of them must be your style?". In the end, I said I would think about it and contact her with the answer. Which meant... I would google it, of course

It seems there are any number of styles out there, but generally, it falls to 7 common ones. 

  1. Autocratic Style - Just Do as I say
  2. Authoritative Style - I am a Visionary, follow me
  3. Pace Setting Style - Do as I do
  4. Democratic Style - What do you think?
  5. Coaching Style - Have you thought about this
  6. Affiliative Style - Up close and personal
  7. Laissez-Faire Style - Come back when it's done

My style just doesn't fit in any of these. Over the years I have worked out that if I don't trust my team then I will end up micromanaging. Everybody hates a micromanager and quite frankly I just haven't got the inclination to be on top of every minutia of information. Micromanaging in my view, demoralises people who just end up scared of making decisions concerned that they will likely be overthrown anyway, the result is that the team checks and double checks every little detail with the manager. I prefer to work with good people, and if they are good, then I should trust them to make decisions! 

On the other hand, not everybody in a team is as experienced or as senior as others, There's a tendeancy with juniors just to tell them how things should be don but if possibly, I prefer to guide, support and nurture them so that they 'understand' why such a decision will be made. That way, they'd have a better stab at it for next time. 

Lastly, I would invariably run things past the team before making major decisions. I am not the fountain of all knowledge, I cannot imagine that I'm always right, there might be people on the team who know more about specific subjects, processes and systems than I do. Their input is valuable, even if it just serves to solidify my own thinking with the added advantage that the team feel included and useful.

Just as important is to understand that your team are just people, in various stages of thier career or life, ignore them from a personal or emotional point of view and you won't notice if external influences are affecting thier work or life. I'm not saying to become firneds with your team, theere's always a fine life regarding that, but get to know them at least, the last thing I want is my team to be concerned about talking to me or standoffish when there is no need.

So, my leadership style feels complex and does not fit in any of the labels above... I messaged back explaining that I feel my leadership style is a cross between Democratic and Coaching with a dash of Affiliative thrown in. TIt's more than that, but that answer had to be good enough.

It got me thinking though, why are we so obsessed with pigeonholing things?

Experience Over Labels

My leadership isn't chosen from a textbook or a fancy framework, it came from real-world challenges, over years of actually leading a team. It's a blend of trial, error, and triumph that no 'Leadership Style Quiz' could ever encapsulate.

While I understand that recruitment companies need to tick boxes, as it makes their work easier and promotes automation, pigeonholing is like trying to classify the flavours of a gourmet meal into 'sweet' or 'salty'... It's reductive and doesn't do justice to the complexity of the dish. Leadership is nuanced, dynamic, and deeply personal. It's shaped by our experiences, our teams, our projects and our unique solutions.

Embrace Your Uniqueness

So, here's my call to all the leaders out there. Embrace your unique style. Don't fret if you can't find your approach in the dropdown menu or tick box. What matters is the results you deliver and the impact you make. After all, isn't that what real leadership is all about?

I really could do with your help! If you find this article interesting, could you please do me a favour by either sharing it on your site or on social media. I would love to hear yours and other peoples' thoughts on this subject. And if this or any other content on the site has helped you and you would like to show your appreciation, then you can always buy me a coffee ☕️ It would make the time I put into this more than worthwhile! Thank you 😃